KoAloha's New Tuners


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Feb 13, 2020
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On all the new KoAloha sopranos and concerts, I'm seeing what looks like the silver anniversary tuning hardware with marbled, amber-red tuning buttons similar to their friction tuners, but without the logo. I wonder if this is a permanent change or them using up extra tuners after their silver anniversary runs. Some descriptions imply it's the latter, which I hope is the case. KoAloha's friction tuners are the best stock friction tuners I've used thus far, and If KoAloha carried anything over from the silver anniversary models, I would prefer the ebony headstock plates.

As for the anniversary models, I think those might be finally disappearing. I only see a handful of them now, here and there. They were a beautiful run, especially the tenor models, and even though I keep telling myself I should be done with KoAloha, I still wish future versions of the stock model will look like the 2020 anniversary models.
I recall a while back that someone from KoAloha commented "Wait and see" to a question about whether they might switch to Gotoh planetary tuners to replace their friction tuners. Strongly implied was that something would change and your observation is the likely change that was hinted.

My 25th Red Label concert has Gotoh planetary, which I am very happy with.

Going to The Ukulele Site, the new sopranos and concerts look to have a geared tuner:
I was afraid this would happen... The KoAloha headstock is one of those that really benefits from rear facing tuners looks-wise, in my opinion. I detest geared tuners on it, and it boggles my mind they have been using geared tuners on their tenors for ages already. I would understand if they used them on the Opios but the basic Hawaiian-made KoAloha models are already high-end ukes so I can't understand why they can't just put Gotoh UPTs on. Or even Der Jung planetary tuners since they're already using their geared ones...

The fact that the new KoAloha models seem to have custom made tuners with those amber buttons (as opposed to the generic looking tuners on their anniversary models) tells me that they have ordered a bunch of them and will be using them for the foreseeable future. KoAloha friction tuners are probably the best friction tuners I've used and I don't understand why some people seem to have an issue with them. Pono actually did the same with their soprano models and replaced the friction tuners with geared ones. I'm glad I bought my KoAloha soprano that still had those friction tuners. Absolute madness and a massive shame...
I would consider geared tuners a major downgrade. I played the 25th anniversary soprano and concert ukes and found them unbalanced requiring effort to play them standing. Their move to high density ebony fretboards and sapele necks was already adding weight to the necks. I hope someone can report if they made necks slimmer or thinner to get some balance back, or if they made the end block larger or found other ways to make the body heavier. Also makes them look cheap.
Interesting. I dislike the look of side geared tuners in general, but on a KTM I find they look nice with the angle they're installed at. On soprano/concert it's obnoxious looking to me, and I can't stand "amber" buttons either. However with previous friction tuners I could've just changed the buttons, or changed to planetary tuners without headstock modification, screw hole etc.
Switching to Gotoh UPTs on their sopranos would be an upgrade to me. However, using the silver anniversary tuners... I think that's actually a downgrade.
Yeah $44 plus the $12 shipping brings it to $56. I'd rather have the real thing for $14 more.
Wow, I thought I was one of the only ones who preferred friction to open back geared and bothered when Pono made that switch on their sopranos. Gretsch did as well on their sopranos. I guess I'm not alone in preferring friction tuners. There are dozens of us! Dozens!

That said, the friction tuners on the Ponos were not that great, so I'm not too surprised at the change. The really cheap friction tuners on Brukos performed better, even though the Pono's Grovers (I think it was) looked nicer. But yeah, the KoAloha ones were really good, although I agree that the button color was not the most appealing. The amber on the UPTs on the other hand are really pretty. When I upgraded to UPTs, I was almost sad about losing such a good friction tuner on the KoAloha.

I think the gunmetal anniversary tuners look great on their tenors. Especially over the original all black tuners. To me, the silver editions didn't look terrible on concerts. But yeah, they were a little too much on the sopranos. I agree that UPTs would have been better.

But to me, two of the worst offenders are the crowded KoAloha 6 strings and guileles. Those things are a mess at the headstock.
Here is a headstock picture of my 2000 concert. Those friction tuners still do the job and as far as I know have not had any maintenance required in 21 years of heavy use.
If KoAloha reissued some of their vintage models I would find that more appealing than their modern models. I don't have any love for the CNC Sapele necks for sure.
Looks as if KoAloha and other manufactures switch around their tuners with some frequency and that the buying public certainly has their opinions, likes and dislikes. My KoAloha tenor from a few years back has the black KoAloha branded closed geared tuners with the black knobs. They have worked just fine, never a problem, seems about the right size for the headstock. I likely would have been fine with whatever tuner they put on the instrument at the time so long as overall quality and performance were in line with the cost quality and performance of the instrument.
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